Buffers in Developing Areas

Streams in developed areas benefit from having forest buffers, but unlike with agricultural land, there are no federal-state programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, designated to convert these lands back to forests. Ideally, the buffer along a stream whether urban or rural, should be contiguous.  Achieving such uniformity can be even more challenging in developed areas, and there is the additional challenge of potentially heavy use by people.

A typical stream in a developed area goes through a city or residential area where there may be only narrow bands of land available for planting. Any buffer width will be beneficial, but more water quality improvement can be had if the buffer is at least 35 feet wide. A large body of scientific knowledge exists to help guide the planning and designing of buffers. The National Agroforestry Center has produced a synthesis of this diverse knowledge base into distilled, easy-to-understand design guidelines for both urban and rural areas.  The NAC also has a Working Trees for Communities brochure.

Visit the Chesapeake Tree Canopy Network for tools, best practices, and resources for establishing, maintaining, and protecting riparian forest buffers in developed areas.